Price from £22,914
0-62mph 10.9 seconds
Top speed 109mph
Eco score 2/5
Depending on who you talk to, the motoring industry is either riding the most exciting technological wave since Henry Ford first industrialised automotive manufacturing more than a century ago, or we are beginning a long, slow slide that will eventually see our streets buzzing with zombie robo-taxis. But, like Brexit, no one really knows the why or the when, let alone the if or the how. Whatever you think, hope or fear, change is definitely coming and the switch to ultra-low and zero-emission transport is gathering pace.
As we are at this junction, it seems a good time to take stock of exactly what is out there. In the UK, there are currently 370 models on sale from 48 different brands. There are, at the last count, 34,879,281 cars on the British road. Last year, of the 2.3m cars sold, 141,270 had “alternatively” fuelled electric and hybrid engines. The best seller was Ford’s Fiesta.
All this was playing on my mind as I drove the latest Ranger from Ford. It’s a pickup that makes you wonder if the car industry has changed at all. Not that the Ranger isn’t sophisticated in its own way. For workmen, farmers and builders it ticks all the boxes. It’s tough, robust and imperishable. It shows its 4×4 class on dreadful terrain and in dire weather. Its forte is out-muscling heavy payloads: it can cope with up to 1,000kg in its flatbed and tow a trailer weighing 3,500kg. Every aspect of the Ranger shouts durability. Clamber in and you get the sense Ford’s engineers had one thing on their mind: to build a truck that would last.
It’s been tested to extremes. Frost-covered prototypes were exposed to -40C and then baked in 50C heat. Early Rangers were tasked with hauling laden trailers up steep inclines at oxygen-starved altitudes. You could call it vehicle cruelty – they were pushed to breaking point. The door mechanism was tested 84,000 times. That’s a lot of slamming. But why stop there, why not go for 100,000?
The 2.2-litre bestselling diesel returns an average of 43.5mpg. It’s satisfying to drive, too, in a weighty, substantial way, and has impressive safety credentials to back up its heft. It also brings a top-level five-star crash rating to the party. The Wildtrak, the top-spec model, adds a further slice of luxury to the proceedings and has been so popular that Ford has now also released a Wildtrak X version, featuring Performance Blue metallic paint – a colour usually reserved for sporty models, such as the Ford Fiesta ST. The grille, roof rails, side steps, Wildtrak decals and even alloy wheels are all painted black for a more menacing look.
There seems to me to be a mournful irony in the fact that the Ranger is a pickup designed to last forever – just when its time is running out.
But we need pickups – well, farmers and builders do. They are formidably hard-working service vehicles. What we don’t need are pickups to be bought by lifestylers who think the rugged charms in attention-grabbing colours will pop on their Instagram accounts.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010